Allahpundit flagged an interesting point in an updated version of the USA Today story on their latest polling in the presidential race. According to the internals of the Gallup survey, McCain’s ascension to the leadership of the GOP may have healed the brand. Democrats lead Republicans in party identification by a single point:
In the new survey, more voters call themselves Republicans. Now 48% say they’re Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party; 47% say they’re Republicans or lean to the GOP.
Not since February 2005, right after Bush’s second inauguration, have Republicans been within a single point of Democrats in party identification.
What’s more, voters by 48%-45% support the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, the party’s narrowest advantage this year.
Needless to say, this has huge implications for the election, and not just at the presidential level. Democrats had hoped to ride their large advantage to big gains in both the House and Senate this year. Voters have apparently begun realizing that Democrats controlled one of the most useless Congressional sessions in recent history, and the 9% approval ratings have finally taken their toll on Democratic leadership.
Energy policy is the likely locus for this sea change. Nancy Pelosi’s early adjournment without taking action to increase domestic production of oil — a policy favored by 70% of voters — undoubtedly damaged the party’s support, already weakening over the summer. Republicans have hammered Democrats for their refusal to create American jobs and keep American wealth at home, especially with the House Oil Party, and voters have begun to notice.
It also calls into question Obama’s coattails, and suggests much stronger coattails for McCain than anyone might have guessed. Of course, those coattails may belong to Sarah Palin, but regardless, the Republican ticket appears to have caught the nation’s attention, which apparently has begun fatiguing on Obamamania. Obama was supposed to redefine American politics with enthusiasm for Democrats, but now it looks like the opposite may be happening; Democratic identification has declined since the primaries, and Republicans have closed to a virtual dead heat. His uninspired choice of a Washington insider for a running mate on a ticket of “change” probably hasn’t helped much, either.
Hold on to those November narratives. Republicans may just pull a surprise in the House if these numbers continue to move in the GOP’s favor. They have the momentum now, and they need to keep pushing energy policy to fuel it.